Balance is key when it comes to exercise. The health benefits of regular exercise are widely documented, however training programs which focus on only one type activity also bring some negatives. Regular, repetitive running, or taking part in 5 yoga sessions a week will be good for our wellbeing, but can create repetitive strain, resulting in overuse injuries. Incorporating a variety of forms of exercise into our week will help to achieve the greatest benefits for health, and help to prevent those niggling injuries from developing.
So what should we do each week to achieve a balanced exercise program?
Incorporating cardio, resistance, flexibility and ‘play’ forms of exercise into the week will allow us to achieve a good balance. Too much of one and not enough of another places us at a greater risk of injury; but why is this so?
Running for a total of two or three hours each week without doing any stretching or taking part in any resistance exercise will increase muscle tightness and fatigue levels. Over time this increases the chance of developing overuse injuries such as ‘runners knee’ or achilles tendon issues. The same can be said if you do four or five gym sessions per week without any cardiorespiratory or flexibility exercise. Muscles will become stiff from high loads and this will impact how joints move.
Trying to get a good balance of each form of exercise will help to maintain muscle strength, range of movement and cardiovascular fitness.
Let’s use running as an example. If you are training for the city to surf half marathon, you will naturally run between 3-4 times each week to reach your goal of getting to the start line. That means you will be running between 2 – 4 hours each week, and then possibly longer as you increase the volume as the event nears. This is a long time to be running in one week! This increases muscle fatigue and stiffness.
One important component of preventing fatigue is muscle strengthening. Maintaining muscle strength through resistance or functional strength training optimises muscle performance and increases endurance levels. This helps to improve biomechanics as you get to the longer runs, helping to limit fatigue and prevent the development of overuse injuries.
Flexibility training such as yoga, jumping on a foam roller or spending 20 minutes stretching decreases muscle tightness and will help to maintain range of motion. Even going for a massage helps with flexibility!
If you are already thinking how would you find time for this, maybe look at Pilates! It combines muscle strengthening and flexibility – two birds with one stone. You even see more professional athletes taking part in Pilates now too.
The above is just one example, but the same applies to all exercise programs; getting a good amount of cardio, flexibility and resistance training will increase benefits and even performance!
The final form of exercise is ‘play’. This takes the form of playing a game of football, running around with the kids at the park or playing once a week in an indoor soccer game. This aids in improving reactivity and agility and gets you moving in all different directions.
For a good, balanced exercise program, aim to get at least 1-2 hours of each of the four forms of exercise into each week. This will really help you to see more benefits.
Written by Matt Fulco B.Sc (Physio). Matt has extensive experience in sporting injuries (especially soccer!), musculoskeletal injuries, functional strength training and ergonomics. To book an appointment to see Matt, use the window below.